Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Meme Moment (1): Transformative Moment








Puffins at Bempton Cliffs
(RSPB), Yorkshire, UK

Today is the big day! I have found it extremely hard to pick on one defining moment for the purposes of this post (see Steven's blog). The traveller in me would pick the day I flew to Amsterdam and visited Anne Frank's House. The poet in me would pick the day when I won poetry competition at the age of eleven for a poem entitled 'Koala Bear'. The animal lover in me would go for the afternoon when I came home with my first dog. The athlete in me (joke, joke) would select the occasion when I received a small green rosette for coming third in the flowerpot race. What about my many Cornish moments which have shaped my thinking ever since? What about that expedition to Corinth on a school trip, when I stood at the outdoor bema (preaching desk), supposedly used by the Apostle Paul?

Those of you who have followed this blog, however, will not be surprised to find that I have chosen to recall the day when I saw my first puffins in the wild. This last statement is not strictly true, for we had been on the look-out a year earlier, and we think we saw one solitary puffin through a kind birder's highly magnified lens.

We returned to the spot the following year, and this time there was no Yorkshire fret hugging the coast, so the visibility was much better. To our great delight, we saw puffins - through binoculars and with the naked eye. They were nesting. Some had stalks of grass in their beaks and others were finding a cliff ledge hole in which to rear a family. Others were looking quizzically at the gannets. Others still were floating like little amber jewels in a necklace on the sea.

WHY am I so drawn to puffins, I wonder? Yes, they are definitely cute. Yes, they need all the 'friends' they can muster in these days when numbers are declining in sites like the Farne Islands. Yes, they are photogenic and pose a challenge for the photographer. Yes to all these thoughts. However, it is something more that compels me to watch puffins. These small birds have taught me not only to spend time outdoors, enjoying the wonders of creation but they have made me want to understand something of what I see and sense around me. I find myself wondering where the puffins came from and where they will go (and I never was one for geography!).

Puffins have made me appreciate other birds, too. You cannot go to Bempton Cliffs in the spring without being blown away by the gannet colony, not to mention the Razorbills and Guillemots. However, it is not only the spectacular birds which catch my attention these days, although I admit to being a sucker for bright colours! I believe I saw my first Corn Bunting last week in Wiltshire, and I definitely saw my first Osprey in Scotland earlier in the summer.

My blogging activities have put me in touch with some wonderful birders. I am still very much a beginner when it comes to identifying the different species; but my knowledge and my appetite for bird knowledge have both increased enormously since that 'Eureka!' puffin moment. It is not only birds. When I am out with binoculars, I find myself on the look-out for butterflies, insects, caterpillars, lizards, newts, wild flowers, fungi, mice, deer, trees and so many interesting examples of flora and fauna.

The poet, Edward Thomas, has long been a favourite of mine. He served in the Great War, and died when he was hit by a stray shell. Thomas was a keen observer of all that he saw. He wrote prose initially (who could resist his description of the watercress man?). Later he turned his hand to poetry and found new ways of using words. He was a great friend of the poet, Robert Frost - and as I close this post, I am reminded of Frost's immortal lines about the parting of the ways in the wood. I am so grateful to that first puffin for leading me down a new path of discovery, and to all the poets and bloggers who are helping me to learn more about the beautiful but fragile world around me.

Two favourite poems to sum up the essence of my thoughts:
My thanks to Steven of The Golden Fish for hosting today's meme on the theme of a 'Transforming Moment'. My thanks also to all my fellow wildlife bloggers who have opened my eyes that bit wider to the wonders of our world. This is not a comprehensive list (I had to keep something for a future occasion!) - so thank you to everyone.

Here goes in alphabetical order... Enjoy!

15 comments:

steven said...

caroline, thanks so much for this. i might have told you in a comment a while back that puffins are my favourite bird. i have no explanation for why that is other than their colouring. i love their beaks!!!
i also love that you managed to cover a lot of ground with the reality that we have all experienced a wide range of transformative moments and hopefully will continue to do so!! thanks for your contribution to this idea. have a lovely day. steven

Barry said...

Thank you for both the moving story of your personal transformative moment.

And for the list of other bloggers--that will take me the rest of the night to wade through.

And maybe have another transformative moment of my own.

Rachel Fox said...

Please what is a flowerpot race?
x

willow said...

Beautiful post. I loved this!

Golden West said...

An appreciation for life's simple pleasures is a wonderful gift to have.

Linda said...

The faces on the two puffins sitting on the rocky outcrop speaks volumes. They are such a unique and wonderful species. Who needs penguins in the northern climbs when we have these beautiful birds? I am happy to know people are aware of their numbers declining. At the same time how do we protect all the species that need our protection these days? We all do what we can. I loved your meme and all the directions it wanted to travel. Thanks for sharing.

Eryl Shields said...

Wonderful, lovely photographs, and I wish you well on your birdie journey which sounds like a great deal of fun.

Michelle Johnson said...

You're so lucky to have been to Ann Frank's House. I think that is way cool. Love your Puffin pictures too. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post and for the mention. Have a great day.

Coastcard said...

Linda, thank you very much for your lovely comment - and esp. for your own blog post. It served as a Proustian Madeleine Moment for me, bringing to mind happy Brownie Guide revels in the local park (well, it was too far to go from Kent, UK to the other side of the Atlantic!), singing 'Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver...'round the camp fire. Tried to leave this for you on your blog, but the ID bit wouldn't work for me - sorry.

Sid Smith said...

What I love about this entry is the sense of engagement with your surrounding that it conveys. As someone who has been on a boat in the Farnes I know something of that moment where you look at those birds and just think how extraordinary they are.

Meri said...

How charming to be transformed encountering the spirit of puffins. And aren't people's accounts of their moments amazingly different? I played along on my blog, too (meriak.blogspot.com).

Titus said...

Caroline - oh, what's not to love! Those photos are fantastic, they are such improbable looking birds and though it is a word we all shy away from, somehow they are the essence of cuteness. The last photo in particular is just stunning - it's as if you can read their characters (sorry, anthropomorhising them, can't be helped!).
And then to take that experience and make such use of it, so that you truly look at the world around. A lesson to me, for sure. Thank you, charming post in many, many ways.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I am so enjoying the transformative moments blog posts! Thank you.... *smiling*

Crafty Green Poet said...

oh I love puffins too, my favourite puffin moment was on the Treshnish Islands off the coast of Mull, hundreds of them and we could get really really close to them. Beautiful characterful birds...

Marc Latham said...

Great post and photos Caroline.